Ups, downs, over & over again. That would pretty much sum up the early years of my cake decorating journey (though there were probably more downs at the start if I’m honest!). Hard work, mistakes, studying, constant deep learning & lots of perseverance has brought me to a place in my career where I’m SO THANKFUL to be. As a teacher, cake blogger & Youtuber, I’ve had so many cakers (both hobbyists & professionals) reach out to me with a wide spectrum of questions and so I thought it would be a pretty smashing idea to do a blog post to answer the many questions that aren’t enough to stand alone as a single topic on the blog. I hope it helps you!
Hi Amanda, I love making cakes, but am wondering how to juggle caking with my day job?
It is important to have some sort of plan in mind regarding how long you want to juggle cakes & a full-time job. This will help you know how to approach this whole arrangement. Do you want to maintain caking as a side gig on a long term ongoing thing? Or is this something you are doing in the interim until you can finally make the big switch into caking full-time? The former will require you to make space in your schedule to manage both on an ongoing basis without burning out. Perhaps if your job allows it, you could work 4 days instead of 5, or perhaps be disciplined to keep aside 3 nights in the week strictly for baking. You may also want to streamline your orders (eg. cupcakes only, or a certain style of cakes only).
If you have aspirations of caking full-time one day, I would suggest setting a timeframe of when you’d like this to officially happen. For example, giving yourself 1 year (or more) until making the switch into full-time caking. This would help focus your efforts and motivate you to work towards a specific goal.
Some other tips to help you manage the heavy workload of caking alongside a full-time job are: Setting up automated emails, creating a healthy cake workflow (I teach you how I personally organise my cake production workflow in my last post), outsource (eg. use pre-baked naked cakes instead of baking from scratch) and get support (moral support and manual assistance from trustworthy friends/family).
How do you bring an assembled cake to your destination? Tips and what cake holder container do you use ??!!
For cakes that are 4 tiers and below, I normally bring my cakes fully assembled to the venue. I use a large, clean, tall cardboard box with the sides of the front sliced down the sides (so the front of the box opens down like a flap). I then use strong tape to hold this flap in place and I place the entire (sturdy) box into the boot of my 4-wheel car. I also bring along my camera & a handover sheet (cake information to pass onto staff at the event venue).
I HIGHLY recommend bringing an emergency kit and the contents will change all the time depending on what cake you’re delivering. For buttercream cakes, I’ll bring extra buttercream, a palette knife, additional flowers, posie picks, paper towels & scissors. For fondant cakes, I’ll pack along additional fondant, a small rolling mat, a small rolling pin, additional decorations, paintbrush, sugar glue & ready mix royal icing. Chances are, you probably won’t end up using the emergency kit a majority of the time, which might cause you to neglect bringing it at all. But trust me when I say, the time will come, and you will be so very grateful to have it on hand! (like that time the cake fell over when I was travelling uphill, but that’s a story for another day)..
For 5 tier cakes and up, I’ll assemble the first 4 tiers and transport it similar to the aforementioned. I’ll then bring the upper tiers in separate cake boxes (all pre-dowelled) and stack that on-site with royal icing.
How did you grow your business locally without a store front?
Knowing how to effectively market your product and brand is key to growing any business, store front or not. The common misconception is that owning a store front cake business will naturally generate higher awarenesss of your product but that isn’t always true. Having a physical location can provide some benefits in this area but the crux of the matter is how effectively you market your product to your clients. Some factors that have helped me grow my home studio based business is an effective social media strategy (and no, I’m not referring to merely posting up images of finished cakes), collaborations with complementary brands, a well-built website with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), quality-fine-tuned products, good client communication & an identifiable brand identity.
In the warmer weather how do you control the buttercream, ie: with using piping tips, colouring , transporting. Do you just use a crusting buttercream or is there another method
There are 2 general ways. Alter the recipe to make it more temperature resistant, or control your atmosphere. I tend to reduce the butter content in my buttercream recipes during the warmer months and replace with vegetable shortening. My Swiss Meringue Recipe is one that I’ve developed to stand well both in cold & warm seasons (as my local climate swings from one extreme to the other). I would also recommend using a high-chocolate content ganache whenever possible instead of buttercream. Crusting buttercream is also used in suitable scenarios whenever possible (and only if client is agreeable).
I usually have the air-conditioning set to arctic in the warm months and keep my cakes in the fridge in between decorating periods. It sometimes gets so cold I’m wearing sweaters in my workspace/delivery vehicle right in the eye of summer!
I have piles of pictures on my computer, but I do not post them, because after few days I don’t think that this cake is good enough to show… How in the world stop thinking that my cakes aren’t good enough?
There are a few possible reasons why this could be happening. Most commonly, its insecurity, comparison and/or high personal standards – all things that I have struggled deeply (and to a degree still struggle) with. I would highly recommend heading over to my top-read article which talks all about ‘How to Overcome Caker Comparison’ in becoming a self-confident cake maker.
For me, comparison was a daily battle that I gradually overcame by understanding that everyone has to start out a beginner at some point. I also learnt to focus more attention on MY WORK (which will accelerate one’s skills quicker) rather than spending time thinking about OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK (which will not propel anyone forward in any way).
As for the struggle with displaying your work: Post up cake pics that you like, and try and post them quite soon after it’s complete. Also, keep honing your cake techniques by practising and enrolling in courses that teach you how to get a professional looking finish. I would also suggest learning some basic photography skills so you’re more confident of the images you post.
Ultimately, simply follow your passions, know your goals, never stop learning, keep honing your craft and deep down, know that YOU as a person (aside from cakes) are significant, worthwhile, unique and valuable <3